updated 9/14/2012 11:20:39 AM ET 2012-09-14T15:20:39

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
September 13, 2012

Guests: Steve Clemons, Karen Finney, Keith Boykin, Ben Jealous, Joy Reid

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Scattered protests continue in the streets
of Cairo near the American embassy, and the politics of foreign policy
continue to dominate the presidential campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you want to know my
position on issues, ask me and I`ll tell you.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: What about Mitt Romney?

ROMNEY: Ask me and I`ll tell you.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: No apology from Governor Romney.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH: I`m shocked that Governor Romney doubled down.

ROMNEY: A severe miscalculation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A craven attack on the president.

ROMNEY: A statement which is akin to apology.

MITCHELL: He didn`t wait long enough to get the facts.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: What this shows is a certain amount of
desperation.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A tendency to shoot
first and aim later.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This
administration`s policies project weakness abroad.

SHARPTON: It`s an awful, mean-spirited claim.

OBAMA: This wasn`t the time for politics.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Obama commands, Romney complains.

ROMNEY: I met with Lech Walesa.

WAGNER: Romney didn`t seem to understand any of the dynamics.

SHARPTON: Why won`t he admit the mistake?

RYAN: The administration sent mixed signals.

SMERCONISH: I don`t think it`s playing well anywhere but the base.

MATTHEWS: The trifecta, if you will, of campaign missteps.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an awkward moment for the campaign.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: A lot of negative `attention
in the last 48 hours.

MITCHELL: Backlash from some even in his own party.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Several stepped up to criticize Mitt
Romney`s actions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of jittery Republican this week.

MATTHEWS: Here`s what Peggy Noonan had to say.

PEGGY NOONAN, WSJ: Romney looked weak today.

MATTHEWS: The velvet hammer.

NOONAN: He looks like Richard Nixon.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I`m not a crook. I`ve earned
everything I`ve got.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Richard Nixon`s too liberal for
these people.

ROMNEY: If you want to know my position on issues, ask me and I`ll
tell you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: With 54 days until Election Day, the campaign is focused
on this.

You are looking at live video from Cairo where scattered protests have
continued throughout the night outside the U.S. embassy. Today, anti-U.S.
protests spread to Sudan, Iran, Iraq.

And most violently, to Yemen where several thousand protesters
gathered outside the U.S. embassy. Some breached the walls of the embassy
where they burned the U.S. flag before local police forced them back. The
State Department says U.S. personnel are safe and accounted for.

Mitt Romney suffered another day of bad reviews for his reaction to
this crisis. The "Boston Globe" editorial today says this about Romney`s
performance yesterday, "Romney`s timing was terrible. Romney was wrong on
the facts. Romney was wrong on substance. Romney was wrong as a matter of
policy."

"The Los Angeles Times" editorial today says, "In mixing sympathy with
specious attacks and self-promotion, Romney has diminished himself."

Even Bill O`Reilly had a problem with Mitt Romney`s criticism of the
Obama administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: The statement that came from the administration was a
statement which is akin to apology. And I think it was a severe
miscalculation.

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Now, I`m not sure the governor`s correct on
that. The embassy was trying to head off the violence. Being conciliatory
in that kind of a situation seems logical.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Romney apparently agrees with his bad reviews and has
decided to back down from a fight with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: No direct response when the
president says you shoot first and aim later?

ROMNEY: Well, this is politics. I`m not going to worry about the
campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama spoke today in Colorado.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to
justice.

(APPLAUSE)

I want people around the world to hear me, to all those who would do
us harm -- no act of terror will go unpunished. And I`ve directed my
administration to do whatever is necessary to protect all Americans who are
serving abroad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president also praised what our Ambassador Chris
Stevens was trying to achieve before he was murdered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We`re different because we`re a nation that`s bound together
by a creed -- the idea that all men and women are created equal, that we
are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.

(APPLAUSE)

We believe this our universal aspirations. And they are held by
people who leave in tiny villages in Libya, and our task as the most
powerful nation on earth is to defend and protect and advance our people
but also to defend and protect and advance those values at home and around
the world. That`s what our troops do. That`s what our diplomats do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Krystal Ball and Ari Melber. And
"The Atlantic`s" Steve Clemons who publishes the foreign policy blog, "The
Washington Note".

Krystal, it was quite striking to me that George Stephanopoulos put
the president`s words directly to Mitt Romney and he simply backed down.
He wouldn`t dare take on the president on that.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST: And it`s incredible that suddenly now he
doesn`t want to insert politics into the situation. I think it tells you
first, one thing, how slow they were to get a handle on how badly they`d
mishandled the situation. I mean, after jumping the gun, after releasing
the statement, they come out the next day, reiterate the same thing.

I`m so sick of hearing the word double down. But that`s exactly what
they did. And it`s taken them this long to realize how devastating this
has been for their campaign because first of all -- I mean, it was just an
unbelievable attack at exactly the wrong moment, as you put it, totally
wrong on the facts.

And second of all, this is the president that we`re talking about. He
is the head of our country. And he is someone that the American people
trust on foreign policy. So from just a pure political standpoint, this is
not the ground that you want to be fighting on.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Steve Schmidt this morning on "MORNING
JOE." Steve Schmidt being the Republican campaign manager of John McCain`s
campaign last time around. Let`s listen to Steve.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It was a very serious mistake
because we`re at a point of the campaign here these impressions start to
harden into concrete. People are evaluating now on a daily basis who has
what it takes to be the next president in a challenging time, who has the
right temperament, who has the right character? He fell short on that with
that statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, it seems that the Romney campaign, if they
couldn`t see this moment the way Steve just described it, the stakes that
were in this moment, then they`re on their way -- they`re posed to make
many more mistakes between now and election day.

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: Yes, I think Steve is talking about the
appraisal that happens. You can learn a lot about a candidate during a
crisis. So people will take this crisis, which is obviously very important
to the country, not just the election, and they may view Mitt Romney`s
behavior through that prism.

But I would go beyond what Steve`s saying with regard to the politics
and look at the diplomacy. Secretary of State Clinton and the president
and our diplomatic corps have a tough job out there. Libya obviously is a
new regime. Egypt, a quasi-ally that is under a new foreign prime
minister, they`ve got a lot to chew on out there.

And the problem here is that you have Mitt Romney`s attacks suggesting
that somehow it would be wrong for the United States to apologize or
distance itself from this bigoted, anti-Islam video. Well, neither our
State Department nor our country, nor I think if I can say so, most
Americans have any reason to defend this vile and previously obscure video
that surfaced online from some extremist. So, it is really frustrating I
think for the foreign policy and the diplomacy at stake here to have
someone of Mr. Romney`s stature implying wrongly that somehow we need to
defend this crap.

O`DONNELL: Steve Clemens, there`s a statement that the Romney
campaign policy director made to "The New York Times", which indicates that
they were waiting for something like this, they were waiting to pounce.
She said, we`ve had this consistent critique and narrative on Obama`s
foreign policy and we felt this was a situation that met our critique.

So, Steve, she`s saying they were waiting for something and they saw
this and they thought, OK, this is it, here we go. And they jumped out
there with the attack. And so this seems to have been premeditated even
before the events developed.

STEVE CLEMONS, WASHINGTON NOTE: Sure it was, Lawrence. And I think
that one of the things that`s been dogging Mitt Romney`s candidacy is the
inability to define him because his views have changed so much on so many
different issues that Mitt Romney is a bit inchoate when it comes to public
policy in a lot of different fronts. That`s why picking Paul Ryan was so
defining. You have a case just like McCain and Palin where people talk
about the vice presidential candidate more than the presidential candidate.

In this particular case, there are a lot of people in the Republican
Party fear he`s a Massachusetts Rockefeller Republican style and he`s
trying to position himself for the Goldwater foreign policy and people just
don`t buy it. They don`t believe it.

So, I think the knee-jerk move to jump on this -- you saw it today,
with all the coverage of Mitt Romney the man backing down, this morning,
Mitt Romney the political machine did not. They sent out a report this
morning with Liz Cheney in the headlines and 20 other Republicans that were
strongly and somewhat flamboyantly defending the position Romney took
against the president.

So at least the machine was not connected to the candidate even though
today in Virginia, he clearly backed off the rhetoric from yesterday.

O`DONNELL: Our own Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman
himself, wrote this in "Politico," "Mitt Romney is in trouble not because
of a boring convention or a bloodless speech or a grossly inappropriate
press conference, but rather because the man refuses to stick his neck out
and take a stand on the critical issues of our time. Mitt Romney is likely
to lose and should given that he`s neither a true conservative nor a
courageous moderate. He`s just an ambitious man."

Krystal Ball, I have to say, I think Joe captured it there.

BALL: He nailed it. I mean, you cannot think of a single moment, not
just in this presidential campaign, but in Mitt Romney`s entire political
career where he did not seek the most politically advantageous position,
regardless of where he had been in the past, regardless of what he had
said, regardless of what he`d written, regardless of the consequences or
how irresponsible taking that position might be. He has always sought out
what the poll tested best place for him to be is politically.

And at some point -- and I think we are actually long past that point
-- the American people see through that and they see you`re in the being
straight with them. That you don`t have core values and if you do, you`re
certainly not sharing them with the American people.

And that sense of trust, that sense of, can we look this man in the
eye and believe that he is telling us what the truth actually is, is very
important in the assessment of what we ultimately want to be our commander-
in-chief.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at a TV ad that the Romney campaign put
out today in the hopes of keeping the foreign policy campaign on the one
country that Mitt Romney and Donald Trump like to talk about. Let`s watch
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: This is America`s manufacturing when President Obama took
office. This is China`s.

ROMNEY: It`s time to stand up to the cheaters and make sure we
protect jobs for the American people.

NARRATOR: Barack Obama, failing to stop cheating, failing American
workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, what are the chances of that ad changing the
subject?

MELBER: The chances are low. Nobody likes cheating but nobody cares
about that kind of attack in this context.

And there`s another point here I think that connects with what you and
Krystal were saying, which is there`s a narrative in at least the
Washington media about the partisan differences that divide us and every
issue becomes partisan and isn`t that terrible and how look at both
parties. And sometimes it`s true. I think both parties contribute to
obviously some of the disputes in D.C.

But this example this week, I think, is such a perfect sort of sad
proof point of where a very big issue was not being politicized by both
parties. It was going to be handled as it should have by our president as
a foreign policy issue and nothing more or less.

And it was Mitt Romney and some other Republicans, including the ones
that are still defending this, who came in and turned it into a partisan
attack and a partisan issue. And there are times when it`s not both
parties.

There are times when in this case, Mitt Romney and the Republicans are
making something -- something very ugly out of something that should have
been a time for unity.

O`DONNELL: You know there`s only one way -- only one way Mitt Romney
can change the subject this week. And that would be to release his tax
returns. I think that would do it. But I don`t think there`s anything
other than that.

Krystal Ball, Ari Melber, and Steve Clemons, thank you all for joining
me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

CLEMONS: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, we have the latest NBC News poll of three key
battleground states. And it is all good news for President Obama.

And there`s more good news for the president today, with the stock
market closing at the highest level of his presidency. And a court ruling
is the: only thing now stopping a voter ID law that will prevent 750,000
people from voting.

Ben Jealous of the NAACP will join me.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, you will see how Bill O`Reilly reacted
to a FOX News poll showing President Obama beating Mitt Romney.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Last night, we told you about a FOX News poll that shows
President Obama getting a solid lead over Mitt Romney after the Democratic
national convention. And I wondered then how Bill O`Reilly would try to
spin it in favor of Mitt Romney. Turns out, he found a way. That`s coming
up in the "Rewrite".

And next, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, the candidate who wins two of those
three states will win the presidential election. A new NBC News poll shows
President Obama ahead in all three. We`ll bring you the details next.
You`re going to want to hear these numbers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: As my husband has said, this election
will be closer than the last one. And it could all come down to what
happens in just a few battleground states like Virginia.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: We`re counting on you, Virginia. We have to win this. Find
someone who voted for Barack Obama, get them to join our team. We`re going
to take back America and make sure that we remain the hope of the earth.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O`DONNELL: First Lady Michelle Obama and Mitt Romney were campaigning
today in Virginia. And with only 54 days until the election, we have a new
NBC/"Wall Street Journal"/Marist poll of that state and two other crucial
battleground states, Florida and Ohio.

Joining me now to take us through the numbers is NBC political
director and host of NBC`s "DAILY RUNDOWN," Chuck Todd.

Chuck, what do we have to know about this poll?

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, part of me wants to
call these states the iron triangle of the battleground, if you will.
These three feel like all 270 -- ways to 270 all go through these three
states first.

But let me start in Virginia, since that`s where we showed the
campaigning today, and this is where the president sitting at a five-point
lead, 49-44. Ohio, his lead is a couple of points higher, 50 to 43.
Florida, on identical, 49-44, to what it is in Virginia.

Let me give you some common denominators between the three states,
Lawrence, all of them have the president sitting at 49 or 50. All of them
have his job approval sitting at 49 or 50. And all of them for the first
time since we`ve been polling in these swing states have the right
track/wrong track above 40 percent. And that`s the first time we`ve seen
all of them above 40 percent. They`ve been sitting in the low to mid-30s.

And that`s been the interest bump in all of the national polls and in
what we`ve seen in our own state polls. And if you think about it, I`ve
had a couple of Democrats tell me, that`s the Clinton bump, if you will.
Clinton`s speech was all about making the case that, hey, it may not feel
good, but we`re, quote, "on the right track, on the right course. And that
may be the bump that the president is experiencing right now. The question
is, does it last?

O`DONNELL: Chuck, I noticed something in the polling, thinking about
the conventions. In Tampa where the Republicans had their convention,
President Obama has a 12-point lead.

TODD: I know.

O`DONNELL: In the Tampa area, 53 to 41. What do you make of that?

TODD: It`s interesting. I think a lot of us assumed there would be
no bump out of the conventions because the assumptions was the Republicans
were going to put on a good convention and you`d have two equal conventions
and they`d sort of cancel each other out.

That isn`t the case. And I think every day that the Democratic
convention went on, the Republican convention looked more and more like a
missed opportunity. And what I found interesting about Florida is I didn`t
get the impression in the same way that the Democrats tried to use, for
instance, Denver four years ago, to put Colorado in play.

I didn`t get that sense with the Tampa convention. I think part of it
was the weather. There was a lot of other setbacks. But they seemed to
have a hard time making Tampa sort of part of their battleground Florida
plan.

O`DONNELL: And, Chuck, what about the women vote in these three
states?

TODD: Double digits in all of them. Romney`s lead among men, in low
single digits, and you see that he`s got the widest gender gap, I believe
it was in Ohio.

But in all of these cases, it`s double-digit leads for the president
among women. But only single-digit leads among men for Romney. I`ve seen
these ads. The Planned Parenthood ad, I live in the Washington, D.C.,
mini-market, the northern Virginia area. And it is clear that`s what he`s
targeting there.

And the Romney campaign knows it. Did you take a close look at the
Romney rally today in Fairfax here in northern Virginia? He had nothing
but women in the backdrop of the camera surrounding him. Only women
introduced him. They know they have a problem. They have to cut that gap.
It cannot be sitting in 12, 13, 14 points.

O`DONNELL: In Ohio, the president`s at 54 with women and Romney`s at
38.

TODD: Almost 20 points.

O`DONNELL: That is just -- I mean, and that looks prohibitive in
Ohio, Chuck.

TODD: Lawrence, Ohio seems to be a special case. We`ve been hearing
rumors about how, boy, the Romney folks are really nervous about what`s
going on in Ohio, that it seems to be, quote-unquote, "slipping away". I
still think there`s plenty of time for them to get it back.
Organizationally the Ohio Republican Party has a long history of doing well
there.

But I`ll tell you, Romney`s unfavorable rating in our poll hit 50
percent. His fave/unfave was actually pretty good shape in Florida, pretty
good shape in Virginia. Not the case in Ohio.

I think this tax -- these hits on his personal wealth and the tax
returns have taken a greater toll on Romney in Ohio than any other
battleground state.

O`DONNELL: Virginia stands in the poll at 49 for President Obama, 44
for Mitt Romney. I had Virgil Goode on the show the other night. He`s the
third-party candidate that`s qualified for the ballot in Virginia, popular
in his -- in his congressional district, he could pull Republican vote, the
theory is.

What do you think the possible is of Virgil Goode being a real factor
on Election Day?

TODD: I think it`s a huge factor. I know that the Romney folks are
trying everything they could to challenge his petitions, to keep him off
the ballot. They didn`t succeed. It`s now unlikely they`re going to be
able to get him off the ballot.

Look, one point changes the calculus there. You know, Virginia is
sort of demographically made for President Obama. He`s -- African-
Americans turn out at a higher proportion than they do normally in Virginia
when President Obama`s on the ballot. That`s the assumption again. That`s
been what happened four years ago. If it happens again, you take one point
away from the Republicans and that`s what Goode would do, you make the wing
number 49. Then what we just showed you, that 49 is everything.

And by the way, there`s a third-party aspect that could impact three
states in particular -- Virginia`s one with Goode. I think Gary Johnson,
the libertarian could become a problem for Romney in Colorado and Nevada.
And don`t forget the "none of the above" category in Nevada.

But I think those three states in particular is where if you`re the
Romney folks, you`re not happy about the third party, because I think any
vote that`s not for Obama, should be a vote for Romney. But if it goes
somewhere else, it only helps the president because the president`s base is
a little more solid.

O`DONNELL: Chuck, the poll shows a double-digit lead for the
president on foreign policy in all three states. Was this poll timed in a
way that it would capture what we`ve seen develop on the foreign policy
front this week?

TODD: Not yet. It was Sunday through Tuesday. You`d have one part
of Tuesday. But none of that was really taken into effect. So, I would
hold off on making any judgments. And I would remind folks, Sunday through
Tuesday, this is the heart of the Obama bounce that he got from his
convention, that we`ve seen matched in some of these national polls.

The question is, is it going to sustain? We have a new national poll
that will come out next week. I think we`ll get a better idea both of the
impact on this foreign policy situation and whether this national security
crisis is having an impact on either Romney or the president.

O`DONNELL: Chuck Todd, thanks for staying up late for us tonight.

TODD: You got it, buddy.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Chuck.

Even the latest poll from FOX News has President Obama leading. So
how did Bill O`Reilly try to explain that result away? Well, he had a
little trouble with that one. So he had someone else do it for him.
That`s in tonight`s "Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s great to be
here. Great to be back. I miss him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did more people want you to come to the district
now that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You missed this place?

PAUL: I do, I do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you miss us?

PAUL: Is that a trick question? No. I have a lot of good memories
here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, good news for the economy, which
of course means bad news for the Romney/Ryan ticket, on the day that Paul
Ryan returned to Capitol Hill. In just 54 days, Congressman Ryan will
return to his quiet life as a rabble-rousing Republican congressman who
never gets any of his bills signed into law.

Today on his way to becoming the next losing vice presidential
candidate who will never be president, he returned to Congress where he
learned that the Federal Reverse Chairman Ben Bernanke is starting a new
stimulus program in which the Fed will buy bonds to stimulate the economy.
That was political bad news for Romney/Ryan, but good news for the rest of
the country and especially welcome news for the stock market.

Today, the Dow soared to close above 13,500, its highest close since
the start of the recession five years ago, obviously its highest close of
the Obama presidency. Mitt Romney, who gets richer every day that the
stock market goes up, was not happy to see the stock market rally today on
President Obama`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: What Bernanke`s doing is saying that what the president`s
saying is wrong. The president`s saying the economy is making progress,
coming back. Bernanke`s saying, no, it`s not, we have to print more money.
I don`t think what Bernanke`s doing is going to get the economy going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wouldn`t reappoint him if you won?

ROMNEY: I would like to pick someone that I selected. I would look
for someone other than the current incumbent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Karen Finney, former DNC communications
director and MSNBC contributor, and Keith Boykin, a Democratic strategist
and cNBC contributor. Karen, so turns out Ben Bernanke`s days are
numbered. That`s it. If he`s going to help stimulate the economy, then
I`m afraid President Romney would have to just get rid of him.

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And remember that it was
Governor Perry who said it would be treason if he printed more money
between now and November. Don`t you love how anything that Bernanke might
do that would actually help the economy, help the stock market, help, I
don`t know, working people, is clearly an attempt to help Obama?

It can`t possibly be for any other reason like, I don`t know, bringing
stability, let`s say, or predictability to our markets.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to how Chuck Schumer welcomed Paul Ryan back
to Capitol Hill today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It`s nice to see Paul Ryan back
here in Congress. It will be even nicer to see him back here as a full-
time member in January. Now, there have been a lot of controversy about
Mr. Ryan and some of the things he says and what he states. The least
credible claim of all about Congressman Ryan is the idea that he`s a
serious deficit hawk and that his budget is a serious attempt at deficit
reduction.

He`s not and it`s not. The Paul Ryan budget is about ideology.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Keith Boykin, Paul Ryan`s a big star with the Republicans
on Capitol Hill today. But if Chuck Schumer`s right and he comes back in
January as just another member of the House of Representatives, it`s going
to be a very different welcome for him then.

KEITH BOYKIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yeah. I don`t think he`s going
to be too welcome in January when he comes back. Here`s a guy who`s
basically running against Congress even though he`s been in Congress for
virtually his entire life, either as a staffer or as a member of Congress.
And Chuck Schumer is right, his budget does not balance. It doesn`t do
anything except to cut programs for the poor and the middle class and the
needy, and give more to the wealthy. It`s Reaganomics again on steroids.

Unfortunately, the Republicans are buying into it. The odd part --
and I agree with what Karen was saying -- is that the Republicans are
actually in the position now of rooting against the economy. They`re
basically trying to sabotage the economy. They don`t want monetary help.
They don`t want the fed to do anything. They don`t like Ben Bernanke.

They don`t want to do anything with fiscal policy. They don`t want to
do anything to try to inject new money into the economy. And they don`t
want to do it with housing policy even. They`re actually trying to get Ed
Demarco, the head of the Federal Housing and Finance Agency -- they`re
trying to prevent him from spending money or using resources to try to prop
up the housing market. They don`t want to provide relief to homeowners.

What are these people trying to do if they don`t want to provide help
to anybody who`s in need?

O`DONNELL: Karen, in other Paul Ryan news today, we discovered that -
- thanks to "the Daily Beast" -- yes, "Daily Beast" reported that the vice
presidential candidate finalists in the Romney vetting operation had to
hand over 10 years of tax returns. So Paul Ryan handed over 10 years of
tax returns to Mitt Romney. Let`s watch how he handled that question with
Bob Schieffer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: How many years of tax returns did you
turn over to the campaign?

PAUL: Well, it was very exhaustive vetting process. It`s a
confidential vetting process. So there was several years. But I`m going
to release the same amount of years that Governor Romney has. But I have
to tell you, Bob --

SCHIEFFER: How many was that?

PAUL: Two. I`m going to be releasing two, which is what he`s
releasing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Karen, 10 years. You had to give Mitt Romney 10 to prove
he could be vice president. It seems reasonable that Mitt would have to
give at least 10 to prove he should be president.

FINNEY: No, Lawrence, you should just trust Mitt Romney. Come on.

O`DONNELL: Oh, OK.

FINNEY: He`s proven himself. I have to tell you, though, when I saw
the report, I thought of you and I have to retract on your show. When he
first picked Paul Ryan, I thought this would help launch Paul Ryan`s
career. But I have to say, I now agree with you. Look at how
uncomfortable Paul Ryan was there and compare that also to just the way
he`s had to contort himself to try to fit into the Romney-esque, we`re not
giving any details way of doing things.

This is a guy who is the VP nominee who will never be president
himself, you`re right. He`s just completely destroyed his reputation.

O`DONNELL: And Keith, if the Romney/Ryan ticket loses as the polls
indicate that it will, one of the big reasons is going to be Paul Ryan and
the policies advanced by Paul Ryan in the Republican House of
Representatives, policies that he forced them all to vote on and commit to
at various points in time. What are the chances that Republicans will
realize how much of a problem Paul Ryan created for them in the last couple
of years?

BOYKIN: I don`t think it`s very likely. I think that the Republicans
seem to be in denial about what`s going on. They marched into a herd to
support the Ryan plan. And even though Newt Gingrich called it right wing
social engineering, they didn`t seem to be concerned about it. When they
lost the race in New York, the 26th congressional district because of the
Medicare issue and Paul Ryan, they didn`t seem to be concerned about that.

When they lose the presidential election, maybe they`ll finally start
to realize that their policies are being repudiated by the American people.
The public doesn`t want this. And I hope that they finally get it. But
maybe for the Democrats, it`s a good thing that they don`t.

O`DONNELL: And let`s not forget that Paul Ryan does have a Democratic
opponent running for his House seat. And so there`s a possibility that he
might not be back at all. Karen Finney and Keith Boykin, thank you both
for joining me tonight.

BOYKIN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: What happens on Fox News when its own poll shows President
Obama beating Mitt Romney? It gets very strange. You`ll see it next in
the Rewrite.

And later, Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, joins me to talk about
Republican voter suppression efforts and what happened today when the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard arguments about that state`s voter I.D.
law.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I have never seen this intense
an effort by the Democrat machine, including the pollsters. We know these
polls are all conducted by people who want Obama reelected, who want the
Obama agenda. The polls now are just being used as another tool of voter
suppression. The polls are an attempt to -- not reflect public opinion but
to shape it, yours. They want to depress the heck out of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Yes, I know, I`ve shown you that video before. But we had
to show to it you again tonight because, as reported here last night, Fox
News produced a poll yesterday that showed President Obama with a five-
point lead among likely voters. And we were kind of curious how the Romney
cheerleaders at Fox News were going to greet their own poll. They couldn`t
possibly accuse the Fox News poll of being the rigged creation of pro-Obama
pollsters who want to suppress the Republican vote like Rush says.

Now, as you`ve seen here tonight, when a news organization has a new
poll, that news organization treats that poll as a big deal for a couple of
reasons. The biggest reason is it is news. And it is treated as news by
every news organization. We treat CNN polls as news. We report on ABC
News polls, CBS News polls, "New York Times" polls. In a political
campaign, polls are news.

The second reason that news organizations treat their own polls as
news is that they get to report on their own polls first. We get to break
the news about our own NBC poll. And so when Fox News released a highly
newsworthy poll yesterday, how was it treated on the most important show on
Fox News, the show with the biggest audience on the network? It was
mentioned exactly once in one question 27 minutes into that show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: How do you account for the
discrepancy between the Rasmussen poll which has it at a dead heat and the
Fox News poll which has the president out by six points?

DICK MORRIS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I can`t account for those
two differences because there are so many factor that go into it. My
general comment about these polls is that they understate the Romney vote
and overstate the Obama vote, because they are using a 2008 model of
turnout. In other words, you make the phone calls, you get too few blacks,
too few Latinos, too few college students because they don`t answer their
phones. They have cell phones and all of that.

So you have to weight them up. What do you weight them to, 13
percent, which is what Rasmussen does, which is the highest black turnout
ever in `08, or 11 percent, which is the historic one. Those are the kinds
of distinctions. They`re using the highest, most pro-Obama turnout model.

O`REILLY: Are you still confident mitt Romney is going to win the
election?

MORRIS: Absolutely, by a good bit.

O`REILLY: All right. Dick Morris, everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So that`s how Fox News` biggest star handled the Fox News
poll last night. He brought a Fox News employee to say that Rupert Murdoch
paid for a Fox News poll that was wrong, to basically rewrite the poll on
the air into yet another indicator that Mitt Romney is going to win.

Bill O`Reilly wasn`t going to be stupid enough to do that himself.
But he knows there will always be a Fox News player ready to go to say
whatever the Fox News audience wants to hear, no matter how preposterous it
could possibly be. A few months ago, Bill O`Reilly said this to his
favorite Fox News stooge --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`REILLY: Do you realize if President Obama wins, you`re through?

MORRIS: I`m through.

O`REILLY: You`re going to be selling refrigerators in Topeka.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President Obama is going to win. But Dick Morris is not
going to Topeka. He will continue to cash his Fox News paycheck and
continue to predict Republicans victories no matter what the polls say,
even the Fox News polls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: A voter ID law that could make Pennsylvania the largest
swing state with new voter restrictions is now in the hands of the Supreme
Court of that state. There was standing room only today as the court heard
arguments on the law that could affect up to 750,000 voters in
Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GERSCH, COUNSEL FOR APPLEWHITE: The act does not anywhere
guarantee that if you`re a qualified elector, you will be able to get the
ID necessary to vote.

JOHN KNORR, COUNSEL FOR PA COMMONWEALTH: The right to vote at its
core obviously is a fundamental right. But not everything that affects
that right is fundamental. And the reason for that is that unlike, say,
freedom of speech or freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right
to vote and having elections, in their nature, cannot exist without
pervasive state regulation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: People gathered inside and outside of the courthouse to
protest against the law, including a rally held by the NAACP. Joining me
now, the leader of that rally, Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP,
and MSNBC`s Joy Reid.

Ben, you were in the courtroom today. What was your sense of how the
arguments were received by the court?

BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT AND CEO: I think we can be cautiously
optimistic that this will go the right way. We`ve turned the tide in
states across this country. We`ve seen good decisions in Wisconsin and
Texas and Florida. We`ve seen Republican governors in places like Michigan
veto very similar bills.

What you saw with the chief justice of the Supreme Court of
Pennsylvania today, who`s a republican -- and it`s a court that`s split
three/three, Democrats and Republicans, was that he seemed to not be
satisfied with the state`s arguments and to be somewhat hostile in his
questioning of the state. And he has broken with his party before.

And so I think there`s reason to be cautiously hopeful that he might
do it in this case.

O`DONNELL: It was a rather -- just that point we just heard was a
rather tortured point that he made about, yes, you know, the right to vote
is a fundamental right, but things surrounding that are not fundamental
rights.

JEALOUS: Well, and the state was like that again and again. I think
what they can`t really get around is that we could be headed towards a
constitutional crisis in their state. Florida in 2000, Pennsylvania in
2012, and that`s the real fear here. What it came down to today, a lot of
the argument was that this is being done too fast, and they don`t have the
capacity to do it well.

Georgia put a law like this in place. They took years to put it in
place. And in Pennsylvania, they have potentially 800,000 voters. The DOT
says they are expecting to process like 10,000 I.D.s. The maximum they
could do about 60,000 in this period. So that`s hundreds of thousands of
people that they have no capacity to get an I.D., even if all of them
showed up tomorrow.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, you have to wonder what the urgency is about
here when you consider this stipulation -- this is an agreement between
both sides that was filed with the court. It says, "there have been no
investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
And the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such
investigations or prosecutions in other states."

JOY REID, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah. And Lawrence, that is
exactly the question that was asked by each of the three Democratic
justices in the court arguments today. What is the rush? And there was
even some thinking that possibly a compromised position that could be
reached by this court would be to delay the implementation of the law, even
if it`s not overturned, because indeed the only rush you could conceive of
is that there`s a political and a partisan sort of motivation to get this
done before this particular election.

And Ben Jealous hit the exact point. To this date, they`ve only been
able to come up with 6,000 of these I.D.s and get people registered, when
even by the conservative estimate, there could be 500,000 people who need
to be registered.

So what is the rush? The rush is that there`s a partisan sort of
imperative here on the part of one of the parties, because they haven`t
shown that there`s actual voter fraud.

If I could just say really quickly, we`re talking about Pennsylvania
here, which is the largest, most populous state in the union that has not
enacted one of the four pillars of easy voting, meaning early vote, same-
day registration, online registration and what they call no excuses
absentee balloting, meaning you don`t have to have a note from your doctor.
So Pennsylvania is already one of the 10 most restricted states in the
country, even putting aside voter I.D. And now they`ve added this.

JEALOUS: And let`s be clear. You don`t have to guess at what the
motive is here, because the GOP`s leader in the state has come out and said
point-blank that this state is in the bag for Romney because of voter I.D.
They are not trying to fix the voting process. They`re trying to fix the
race. And that`s just simply should not be tolerated.

O`DONNELL: Ben Jealous and Joy Reid, thank you very much for joining
me tonight.

REID: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: "THE ED SHOW" is up next.

END

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